IF YOU were out and about you may have seen the incredible spectacle of the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales off the Isle of Wight on its return to its home in Portsmouth.

Families, friends and well-wishers welcomed the £3 billion warship as it passed the Isle of Wight and into Portsmouth Harbour today (Friday) — almost a year after breaking down just a few miles into a journey to the United States.

HMS Prince of Wales had a broken propeller shaft after it sailed from Portsmouth Naval Base on a diplomatic mission, to carry out exercises with the US Navy, the Royal Canadian Navy and the US Marine Corps, in August last year.

The carrier came to a halt off the Isle of Wight and was brought back into Portsmouth Harbour, under tow, for the problem to be identified.

It was then taken to the Babcock Shipyard, where it was built, in Rosyth, Scotland, to undergo repairs to a propeller shaft, which have taken nine months to complete.

Fears had been raised the 65,000-tonne vessel was being 'cannibalised' for parts, to be used on sister ship, HMS Queen Elizabeth, but Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace, said it had been “perfectly normal” and that the ship would return to service by this autumn.

The carrier moved out of dry dock at Rosyth and into the River Forth on July 21, before starting its journey back to Portsmouth Naval Base, where it returned to the waving and cheering well-wishers who had lined the harbour walls.

A Royal Navy spokesman said: “The carrier will then build on her previous successes, including acting as Nato’s command ship and leading the Maritime High Readiness Force in the Arctic, before she takes over from HMS Queen Elizabeth as the nation’s flagship towards the end of 2024.”

The ship’s commanding officer, Capt Richard Hewitt, said: “We are returning HMS Prince of Wales to operations as the most advanced warship ever built for the Royal Navy.

“This year, we will be operating F-35s, V-22 Ospreys, drones and the RN Merlin helicopters — pushing the boundaries of naval aviation and UK carrier strike capability, as we progress towards a global deployment in 2025.

“Our sailors are paramount to ensuring our return to operations. They have approached the task of getting us back to sea with the remarkable ethos I have come to expect from them.

"They are a credit to the ship and the Royal Navy.”

The navy spokesman said the ship’s engineering departments had worked with civilian engineers from Babcock to fix the propeller shafts, along with BAE Systems, which has also been carrying out previously-planned upgrade works.

He added that the 750-strong crew have undergone training and supported recruitment drives as well as taking part in civic events during the period of the repairs.